If you’re a third party, who do you root for to win today?
Obviously you want your own candidates to win. But chances are your candidates don’t really have a chance to win, and the President, I can guarantee with 99.9% certainty, will either be John McCain or Barack Obama. Which one would you prefer to see become President of the United States?
If your party is just an extreme version of the Democrats or Republicans, you probably back the candidate that will do the most to advance your views. But what if you’re a party that genuinely sees no difference between Democrats and Republicans – that legitimately thinks it can draw some support from both political parties, that sees Obama and McCain as equally objectionable? Equally intolerable, even?
What do you root for then, in a race between Satan and Satan? Which one might exceed your expectations, which one might turn out to be a half-decent president?
I’ll tell you who you root for.
You root for Obama to win… and subsequently turn out to be a Bush third term.
Because nothing else would underscore the lack of a difference between Democrats and Republicans better. With an abusive Democratic president and the abuses of Bush still fresh in the minds of the electorate, the field in 2012 would be ripe for a third party or independent to come along and propose real change. The Democrats have done nothing for two years to stop Bush’s power grab for the executive branch. There is very little to suggest that Barack Obama won’t say, “Hey Bush, thanks for leaving me all this power! Why would I ever get rid of it?”
Rooting for Obama is a crap shoot. If the Democrats, given a mandate by a resounding Obama victory, a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, and a massive majority in the House, successfully roll back the abuses of Bush, pull us out of Iraq, and helm four years of increasing peace and (relative) prosperity, they have a blank check for a generation. That would utterly destroy the Republican party, and it also would sour the mood against the sorts of thoughts on which third party and independent campaigns most flourish – like “neither party has my interests in mind anyway”.
To be sure, having a Democratic blank check could create a field in which a multitude of third parties attempt to fill the vacuum left by the decline of the Republicans, trying to focus in on various parts of the Republican coalition, or trying to position themselves to the left of the Democrats. And it can certainly seem pyrrhic to hope that Obama becomes Stalin to Bush’s Lenin, for pure partisan political purposes, while also hoping he doesn’t abolish the election system entirely. But if it does happen, if Obama makes Bush look like Lincoln, a third party candidate could well have the opportunity to win right away – and win seats in Congress.
That’s not the reason I’m likely voting for Obama today – from what I can tell (and with a shockingly low level of actual, firm policy positions linked to on either the candidate’s or the party’s site, that’s not much), the third party candidate closest to my views on the environment (that’s not outwardly socialist) seems to almost brush off the Bush abuses of power, with no reference to Guantanamo Bay in the version of the party’s platform I encountered, and the Patriot Act reduced to a sentence in a section on “criminal justice”. But it is why I intend to keep a VERY close eye out on what the Democrats actually do once they have power. This election may be historic, but the days and months following it could well be equally historic.